NAPLES — The attorney representing 33-year-old Mesac Damas said today that his client’s video confession to the Daily News about killing his wife and five young children will make mounting a defense "a lot more difficult."
“Anytime you have a confession you have to weigh that into the process. So it doesn’t make it any easier, that’s for sure,” Collier County Deputy Public Defender Mike Orlando said after a 20-minute status update in court. “This is an unusual situation where there is a statement to (the) media.”
Damas appeared in court wearing an orange jumpsuit that read “inmate” on the back, and had a noticeably longer goatee than he had in his booking mug shot. His hands and feet were shackled.
Damas sat quiet and motionless next to Orlando, only acknowledging that he understood what Judge Frank Baker was saying.
Friday’s court appearance was the first time Damas has been seen in public since his September arrest.
He is accused of slitting the throats of his wife, Guerline Dieu Damas, 32, and five young children in mid-September and then fleeing to Haiti where he was arrested days later. During his transfer back to the U.S., Damas confessed to killing his family to a Daily News reporter.
Video of the confession was broadcast around the world.
During the routine hearing, both Baker and Orlando confirmed that they are qualified to handle death penalty cases. On Thursday morning the State Attorney’s Office filed an intent to seek the death penalty against Damas, who waived his right to a speedy trial.
When questioned by reporters after the hearing, Orlando said he still has concerns about Damas’ mental state. Damas remains on suicide watch in the Collier County jail. An insanity defense is still on the table, Orlando said.
“That’s something that is being considered,” Orlando said. “It will be developed over time. It’s not something that you make an immediate decision on.”
During the hearing, Baker also ensured that prosecutors were turning over more than 300 pages of discovery, DVDs, photographs and statements to the defense.
“Everything that is discoverable is being turned over,” said Assistant State Attorney Richard Montecalvo, who heads the State Attorney’s Office in Naples.
The next status update for Damas was scheduled for 8:30 a.m. on March 19. Baker said he would allow Damas to sign a waiver so he can skip routine hearings in the future.
At the conclusion of the hearing, a man in the courtroom called out to Damas, who acknowledged him, but did not speak. The man declined to give his name or speak to reporters.
DAMAS FAMILY KILLINGS COVERAGE
ONE YEAR LATER:
- Year after slayings of Guerline Damas, five kids, relatives ask ‘did it really, really happen?’
- Confessed killer Mesac Damas wants to die, so should court system let him?
- Damas family slayings: Year later, still haunting lives of friends, family, deputies
- Jail phone call: Accused killer Mesac Damas talks to father about his slain family, Satan and adultery
MESAC DAMAS CONFESSION VIDEO:
DAILY NEWS STAFF JOURNALISTS TALK ABOUT THE CASE:
- THE FIELD: Naples Daily News staff writer describes how he obtained an interview with Mesac Damas
- THE FIELD: Visual Journalist Greg Kahn discusses being the first journalist at the Damas crime scene, and other observations from the field.
- THE FIELD: Staff Writer Steven Beardsley answers questions about his interview with Mesac Damas